The torpedo has a nearly flat, conical disk at its nose that creates the gas cavity for supercavitation. The disk tilts to help guide the weapon and keep it stable. The cavity is supported by rockets venting just abaft the cavitator. Four popout cylinders toward the aft end of the nose section keep the body of the torpedo stable and out of contact with the walls of the bubble in which it rides. At the rear of the torpedo are deflected control surfaces. Eight small rockets surround the main sustainer rocket. The main engine cuts in when the weapon has achieved supercavitation speed.
The solid-rocket propelled torpedo achieves a high velocity of 230 mph (386 kmh) by producing an envelope of supercavitating bubbles from its nose and skin, which coat the entire weapon surface in a thin layer of gas. This causes the metal skin of the weapon to avoid contact with the water, significantly reducing drag and friction.
The Shkval is fired from the standard 533-mm torpedo tube at a depth of up to 328 ft (100 m). The torpedo exits the tube at 50 knots (93 kmh) and then ignites the rocket motor, propelling the weapon to speeds four to five times faster than other conventional torpedoes. The weapon reportedly has an 80 percent kill probability at a range of 7,655 yd (7,000 m).
The torpedo is guided by an autopilot rather than by a homing head as on most torpedoes. The initial version was unguided. However, the Russians have indicated there is a homing version that starts at the higher speed and then slows and enters a search mode.
The weapon was deployed in the early 1990s, and had been in service for years when its existence was publicly disclosed. In 1995, it was revealed that development had begun in the 1960s, when the Research Institute NII-24, previously involved in artillery ammunition research, was ordered to help develop an underwater high-speed missile to combat nuclear-powered submarines. On May 14, 1969, a government mandate created the Research Institute of Applied Hydromechanics (NII PGM), the predecessor of today's Region Scientific Production Association.
A modernized Shkval was placed on display at the 1995 international armaments show in Abu Dhabi, but it was discarded. Later, an improved model was designed with a conventional warhead and a guided targeting system. The first tests of this "smart" Shkval torpedo were conducted by the Russian Pacific Fleet in early 1998.
The Region Scientific Production Association has developed an export modification of the missile, the Shkval -E. Russia first marketed this conventionally armed version at the IDEX 99 exhibition in Abu Dhabi in early 1999.
Russia reportedly sold China 40 conventionally armed Shkval -Es in 1998.
At the MAKS 2005 exhibition in Zhukovsky, near Moscow, and the 2005 International Naval Defense Exhibition in St. Petersburg, NPO Region began marketing the Shkval -E for the coastal defense role. The system includes a surveillance radar teamed with an electro-optical surveillance system and different types of launchers. The Shkval is launched from surface platforms or underwater installations located at a depth of up to 330 ft (100 m). The weapon is fired from either a torpedo tube or a special container.
In April 2006, Iran announced the successful test of a new high-speed torpedo capable of achieving speeds of up to 225 mph (360 kmh). The new weapon, called the "hoot" or "whale" in Farsi, appears to be a development of the Shkval . Further tests reportedly took place in the summer of 2007.
Dvigatel Zavod, St. Petersburg, Russia Region State Research and Production Enterprise, Moscow, Russia
Russia Navy submarines TYPHOON class BOREI class OSCAR II class AKULA class SIERRA II class VICTOR III class
WEIGHTS Total 5,953 lb (2,700 kg) Warhead Shkval-E 460 lb (210 kg) DIMENSIONS Length 26 ft 11 in (8,200 mm) Diameter 1 ft 9 in ( 533 mm) PERFORMANCE Speed Maximum 230 mph (360 kmh, 100 m/sec, 200 kts) Some reports say in excess of 300 mph (483 kmh) Exit from tube 50 kts (93 kmh) Range 3.5 nm (4.0 mi, 6.4 km) Shkval-E range launch 3.8 nm (4.4 mi, 7.0 km) cruise 5.4 nm (6.2 mi, 10.0 km) minimum 0.3 nm (0.3 mi, 0.5 km) launch depth 100 ft (30 m) cruise depth 20 ft ( 6 m) after-launch turning angle +/-20 deg ARMAMENT Warhead explosive weight 463 lb (210 kg) type TNT fuze contact/proximity
On April 5, 2000, an American businessman, Edmond Pope, and a Russian colleague were arrested by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) in Moscow. The men were charged with stealing scientific secrets -- specifically information on the Shkval torpedo. Pope, a retired U.S. Navy captain who spent most of his career working in naval intelligence, was then the head of a private security firm. Two weeks after the arrest, the FSB claimed that Pope was seeking plans for the high-speed underwater missile. Pope was arrested making an informal contact with one of the Russian scientists who helped to create the torpedo.
Pope spent eight months in the Russian Lefortovo prison awaiting trial. He was convicted of espionage and sentenced to 20 years. On Dec. 14, 2000, Russian President Vladimir Putin pardoned Pope on humanitarian grounds, because the American was suffering from bone cancer.
Pope was in Russia as a businessman to purchase Russian technology when he apparently ran afoul of a Canadian intelligence operation intent on purchasing the Shkval torpedoes, according to U.S. intelligence sources.
Despite the novelty of the supercavitation system, the Shkval has significant shortcomings. It has a very short range compared to standard torpedoes; unguided variants must travel in a straight line, making effective targeting very difficult. Secondly, because sound travels much faster under water, it is thought that the Shkval would be highly detectable upon launch. Later versions with guidance and homing systems that require the torpedo to slow down to be able to operate are vulnerable to the same countermeasures as standard torpedoes, thus eliminating the weapon's one advantage. According to some reports, Russia is experimenting with a wire-guidance system for the weapon, but this is a project fraught with difficulties.
LATEST UPDATE: 1 December 2011